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Celtics: There’s no way else to say it: Jan. 27 against Miami. Why? Ray Allen goes back to Boston and gets to guard his replacement, Jason Terry, who will be pressing not to let Allen go off on his first return visit.
Knicks: Nov. 2 vs. Miami. Why? Though games against Houston and Denver will pit the Jeremy Lin and Carmelo storylines against the Knicks, a matchup against the East’s best team will matter more for the team’s psyche in the long run. The early returns on Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton will be the undercard to this game — and who doesn’t want to watch LeBron in MSG?
76ers: Dec. 7 vs. Boston. Why? Five weeks into the season should be enough time to see if this team will play like last year, when it never had one player take the lead, or if it has found that elusive, go-to guy. The second home game of the month against a playoff team should be a nice showcase to do that.
Raptors: Dec. 16 vs. Houston. Why? Lin-sanity caught its second wave last year when he hit the buzzer-beating, winning three in Toronto. Houston’s return gives the stage back to Lin for an encore. What you should really watch this game for, however, is a chance to see one of the best defensive players, Omer Asik, face Toronto’s ox of a rookie forward Jonas Valanciunas.
Nets: Nov. 1 vs. New York. Why? The first home game since 1957 in Brooklyn opens against the New York brethren. Hipsters vs. Wall Street. Deron vs. Melo. Thank you, NBA schedule-maker, for this.
Bulls: Dec. 1 vs. Philadelphia. Why? It’s not much consolation, but the Bulls can get a shot of going after the 76ers for the 8 over 1 playoff upset last year. Without knowing what game Derrick Rose will return from injury for, this game is one the Bulls can aim at.
Cavaliers: Dec. 11 vs. the Lakers. Why? Mike Brown goes back to the city that made and then ended his first head-coaching stop, but this is about watching Kyrie Irving face Kobe. In their first matchup since that infamous Team USA highlight clip on Day One in training camp, does this turn into the one-on-one game they jawed at each other about?
Bucks: Nov. 3 vs. Cleveland. Why? Other than Bucks-Warriors this game is the most interesting early game because Tyler Zeller faces Bucks rookie and former North Carolina teammate John Henson at power forward.
Pistons: Dec. 3 vs. Cleveland. Why? Last season, the rookie point guard matchup between Brandon Knight and the Cavs’ Kyrie Irving was one of the only reasons to watch either team. It will still be one of the most intriguing matchups this year for Detroit.
Pacers: Jan. 8 vs. Miami. Why? Last year’s second-round playoff series was one of the unexpected gems of the entire postseason and created an unlikely rivalry (Lance Stephenson vs. Juwan Howard). This one, though, will be about Roy Hibbert and if he can overpower Chris Bosh.
Heat: Christmas vs. Oklahoma City. Why? It’s an NBA Finals rematch with all the trimmings. A nationwide audience glued to the TV and a showdown of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Magic: The game before the trade deadline. Why? Dwight Howard‘s saga now seems likely to stretch until the last moment before he can’t be dealt anymore. All the games to that point will have drama by themselves because of his discontent, but could be a final Magic game for him?
Hawks: Jan 14 vs. Chicago. Why? While I could list Orlando vs. Atlanta here as a Dwight Howard preview, it’s more intriguing in the short term to look at Jeff Teague take on his brother, Marquis Teague, who could see decent playing time with Chicago’s chaotic backcourt.
Wizards: Dec. 26 vs. Cleveland. Why: These teams meet on opening night, but I want to see how Bradley Beal and John Wall play together another six weeks together, and the matchup against one or both on Cleveland’s top-four rookie Dion Waiters completes the intrigue.
Bobcats: Nov. 9 at New Orleans. Why? Anthony Davis gets to face college teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Plus, it’s early in the schedule, so there’s reason for Bobcats fans to still watch.